Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Don't blame me. I voted for Boogerjuice."

I voted yesterday, just like I always do on election day. We even vote in the non-Presidential elections. We're lucky to have a very good polling place too. It's within easy walking distance, though I usually drive, because they open early and I usually get my vote in on my way to work. I didn't appreciate how good the place was until I read the reports of people waiting hours in the cold. I was in and out in five minutes, and most of that was because the poll worker didn't hear me correctly when I said my name and had trouble finding it in the book.

I'm a Capital-D Democrat, and I voted a straight party line. The only exception was that we had a Republican running unopposed for County Clerk, so I put down "Charles Boogerjuice" as a write in candidate.

I asked Lily for whom I should vote as I was leaving. She was doing math problems on the computer and she didn't look up as she answered "Obama," and I asked why and she said, "Because he's nice. And he's a good president." And that was good enough for me. (More on this at the end.

A lot of my friends were worried, but I wasn't.  There are political sites on both sides of the spectrum, but I think the Liberal ones are better than the conservative ones. Here's why. Because they have different goals. Back in the dark days of the Internets, a friend said he didn't trust anything he read on Daily Kos. But from the beginning, the goal of that site was to elect "More and better Democrats", and to do so, they need to operate in a reality based milieu. You can't afford to spend four years flogging a conspiracy theory about fake birth certificates if that's what you want to achieve.  Kos is as partisan as they come, but it's also rigorously factual in its analysis.  Nate Silver, the statistician who predicted the outcome of 2008 and 2012 races almost exactly, got his start as a Daily Kos blogger. The GOP side gives us these prescient luminaries:

Peggy Noonan:

We begin with the three words everyone writing about the election must say: Nobody knows anything. Everyone’s guessing. I spent Sunday morning in Washington with journalists and political hands, one of whom said she feels it’s Obama, the rest of whom said they don’t know. I think it’s Romney. I think he’s stealing in “like a thief with good tools,” in Walker Percy’s old words. While everyone is looking at the polls and the storm, Romney’s slipping into the presidency. He’s quietly rising, and he’s been rising for a while.

Dick Morris:

We’re going to win by a landslide. It will be the biggest surprise in recent American political history. It will rekindle a whole question as to why the media played this race as a nail-biter, where in fact I think that Romney is going to win by quite a bit. My own view is that Romney is going to carry 325 electoral votes.

Michael Barone:

Bottom line: Romney 315, Obama 223. That sounds high for Romney. But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election. Fundamentals.

Brian S. Brown:

Romney wins the Electoral College with room to spare — somewhere around 300 electors. All four marriage votes in the deepest of blue states (Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, and Maine) will be won by traditional-marriage supporters. This will happen even though supporters of same-sex marriage have outspent us by gargantuan amounts.

I went to CNN for the election night coverage as the returns started coming in, and the thing that struck me was how the blogs were much more accurate and much less sensational than even the most premiere mainstream news site. The election shook out almost exactly as the blogs had projected it.

I really don't debate politics on the Internets any more. I have more efficient ways to raise my blood pressure. The last time I did it on any large scale was the Summer of 2009. I remember it, because the fight was about how Republicans own up to their responsibilities. Specifically, a guy we knew as Icky Dave was claiming that Mark Sandford resigned from the governorship as soon as he was caught abandoning leadership of the state in order to engage in an extramarital affair. And I was like, "Well, then who's running South Carolina?" So Ick, blustered and bleated, making the lies faster than I could correct them. I called him a liar in no uncertain terms, and after the whole thing was done, a non-political friend said in a private message (as this took place on Facebook) "You were pretty mean to Dave last night."

Now keep my non-political friend in mind.

There were some reasons not to vote for Obama, though they were mostly variations of he didn't deliver on his promises to the extent we were hoping. There were no reasons to vote for Romney. His campaign was based almost completely on unspecified future changes and demonstrable falsehoods. He lied and he lied and he lied.

Kurt Vonnegut once likened the hierarchy of laws to playing cards. (I have the full speech at the bottom of this post, because it's one of my favorite bits of writing and worth reading in its entirety.)

"I will speak of Thomas Aquinas instead. I will tell you my dim memories of what he said about the hierarchy of laws on this planet, which was flat at the time. The highest law, he said, was divine law, God's law. Beneath that was natural law, which I suppose would include thunderstorms, and our right to shield our children from poisonous ideas, and so on.

"And the lowest law was human law.

"Let me clarify this scheme by comparing its parts to playing cards. Enemies of the Bill of Rights do the same sort of thing all the time, so why shouldn't we? Divine law, then, is an ace. Natural law is a king. The Bill of Rights is a lousy queen.

It seems like the truth, in this election, was just a queen. I'm still enough of an idealist that I believe that the truth should illuminate things. When it's demonstrated that he's lying, Romney should have enough shame or decency to recant, or at the very least, stop telling the same lies.  But as William Gaddis and Batman told us, respectively, "Justice? You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law " and "The world only makes sense when you force it to."

But, as reprehensible as it is, lying all the time is actually very shrewd.

Me: Why are you voting for Romney?
Friend: Because of X, Y and Z.
Me: Well, none of those are true.

But what am I doing here? I'm telling a friend that he's wrong. That he believes something that isn't true. That he was fooled. Nobody likes to feel that way, and if he's moved on to the point where he's committed to Romney then he's internalized the lies, and it's human nature to stick with what has become your established beliefs. It doesn't matter that they're not true. If Romney says them first, and he says them loud and he says them constantly, then it's hard to refute the lies with the truth alone.

Lily was sad when I came home last night. She told me that her candidate had lost the election. They were voting on whether the class turkey should be named Tom or Lurkey. She voted for Tom because "Lurkey sounded too weird. But if it was a choice between Lurkey and Cuckoo Locka, then I would have voted for Lurkey." I told her that her candidate isn't always going to win, but I read her a letter to President Obama from a little girl and his response, and told her that this is why I think he's a good President.

Dear Barack Obama,

It's Sophia Bailey Klugh. Your friend who invited you to dinner. You don't remember okay that's fine. But I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad you agree that two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other. But at school kids think that it's gross and weird but it really hurts my heart and feelings. So I come to you because you are my hero. If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other, and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?

Please respond!

I just wanted to say you really inspire me, and I hope you win on being the president. You would totally make the world a better place.

Your friend Sophia

P.S. Please tell your daughters Hi for me!

And his reply:

Dear Sophia,

Thank you for writing me such a thoughtful letter about your family. Reading it made me proud to be your president and even more hopeful about the future of our nation.

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

Our differences unite us. You and I are blessed to live in a country where we are born equal no matter what we look like on the outside, where we grow up, or who our parents are. A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to me. I'm honored to have your support and inspired by your compassion. I'm sorry I couldn't make it to dinner, but I'll be sure to tell Sasha and Malia you say hello.


(Signed, 'Barack Obama')

Lily knows a family with two moms, and she's accepted that as a normal and natural part of the state of affairs (though it did lead to some confusion when she was younger when she proclaimed, "That's impossible! How can she have two mommies? That would mean that she was born twice!"). The last thing I want is to have Lily uncritically parroting our beliefs. I want her to reach her own conclusions. But we do believe in kindness and patience and tolerance and equality and if we can show her that the man we want to be President believes in these things too, then I think we're doing okay.

Kurt Vonnegut's speech

"I will not speak directly to the ejection of my book Slaughterhouse-Five from the school libraries of Island Trees. I have a vested interest. I wrote the book, after all, so why wouldn’t I argue that it is less repulsive than the school board says?

"I will speak of Thomas Aquinas instead. I will tell you my dim memories of what he said about the hierarchy of laws on this planet, which was flat at the time. The highest law, he said, was divine law, God's law. Beneath that was natural law, which I suppose would include thunderstorms, and our right to shield our children from poisonous ideas, and so on.

"And the lowest law was human law.

"Let me clarify this scheme by comparing its parts to playing cards. Enemies of the Bill of Rights do the same sort of thing all the time, so why shouldn't we? Divine law, then, is an ace. Natural law is a king. The Bill of Rights is a lousy queen.

"The Thomist hierarchy of laws is so far from being ridiculous that I have never met anybody who did not believe in it right down to the marrow of his or her bones. Everybody knows that there are laws with more grandeur than those which are printed in our statute books. The big trouble is that there is so little agreement as to how those grander laws are worded. Theologians can give us hints of the wording, but it takes a dictator to set them down just right–to dot the i's and cross the t's. A man who had been a mere corporal in the army did that for Germany and then for all of Europe, you may remember, not long ago. There was nothing he did not know about divine and natural law. He had fistfuls of aces and kings to play.

"Meanwhile, over on this side of the Atlantic, we were not playing with a full deck, as they say. Because of our Constitution, the highest card anybody had to play was a lousy queen, contemptible human law. That remains true today. I myself celebrate that incompleteness, since it has obviously been so good for us. I support the American Civil Liberties Union because it goes to court to insist that our government officials be guided by nothing grander than human law. Every time the circulation of this idea or that one is discouraged by an official in this country, that official is scorning the Constitution, and urging all of us to participate in far grander systems, again: divine or natural law.

"Cannot we, as libertarians, hunger for at least a little natural law? Can't we learn from nature at least, without being burdened by another person's idea of God?

"Certainly. Granola never harmed anybody, nor the birds and bees–not to mention milk. God is unknowable, but nature is explaining herself all the time. What has she told us so far? That blacks are obviously inferior to whites, for one thing, and intended for menial work on white man's terms. This clear lesson from nature, we should remind ourselves from time to time, allowed Thomas Jefferson to own slaves. Imagine that.

"What troubles me most about my lovely country is that its children are seldom taught that American freedom will vanish, if, when they grow up, and in the exercise of their duties as citizens, they insist that our courts and policemen and prisons be guided by divine or natural law.

"Most teachers and parents and guardians do not teach this vital lesson because they themselves never learned it, or because they dare not. Why dare they not? People can get into a lot of trouble in this country, and often have to be defended by the American Civil Liberties Union, for laying the groundwork for the lesson, which is this: That no one really understands nature or God. It is my willingness to lay this groundwork, and not sex or violence, which has got my poor book in such trouble in Island Trees–and in Drake, North Dakota, where the book was burned, and in many other communities too numerous to mention.

"I have not said that our government is anti-nature and anti-God. I have said that it is non-nature and non-God, for very good reasons that could curl your hair.

"Well–all good things must come to an end, they say. So American freedom will come to an end, too, sooner or later. How will it end? As all freedoms end: by the surrender of our destinies to the highest laws.

"To return to my foolish analogy of playing cards: kings and aces will be played. Nobody else will have anything higher than a queen.

"There will be a struggle between those holding kings and aces. The struggle will not end, not that the rest of us will care much by then, until somebody plays the ace of spades. Nothing beats the ace of spades.

"I thank you for your attention."

(And Vonnegut's speech in turn reminds me of my favorite part of a Man for All Seasons: )

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get at the Devil?

Roper: I`d cut down every law in England to do that.

More: "... And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"


  1. Part Congratulations, Part RANTING (Sorry, I'm dealing with the loss)

    1st, I want to say that I hope his (Obama's) victory will foster a 2nd chance at bipartisanship b/w the parties. I believe our country currently faces grave problems that need solutions sooner rather than later (high unemployment, a growing debt, tax reform, and entitlement reform). I think Obama now has a good chance of being the President he envisioned in 2008.

    That said, I am not convinced this will happen. There is nothing he has said or done in his 1st term that leads me to believe he will be a bi-partisan president. I love the fact that he opened the door to Mitt Romney in his victory speech to be apart of his plans. If you recall, he did the same with McCain, but nothing came of it except an "I won" comment during the health care debates.

    Also, based on his campaign, which was nothing more than: single women vote, OR you'll lose your right to choose; hispanics vote. OR you'll be deported (which he has done in abundance during his 1st term); blacks vote, OR you'll return to servitude (that was more Biden); LGBT vote or you'll never be treated as equal citizens (I thought the election was about other issues, but I was seriously mistaken, I admit). In everything I have heard regarding his campaign, there was little if anything tangibly presented on how he desires to reform the country. I concede that Romney was VERY vague (this was purposely done) but in my opinion, he offered something more, while Obama offered even more vagueness (can you explain to me his 2nd term agenda? I've seen the democrat platform, its as vague as the republican).

    I am struck, even offended that I was fooled or lied to by Romney. I do not consider myself stupid or easily fooled. The lies Romney presented pale in comparison to Obama's lies. I would rather you admit, that Obama lied as much as Romney, and both did it for political purposes. But I am galled that people believe Obama is morally superior while Romney is merely a "bullshitter." Greg presented his arguments in the same way 2 years ago during the health care debates b/w us & it still doesn't fly with me.

    Finally, the one lie from Obama that no one, not even the press OR Romney, really called him out on was taxes on the middle class. Who do you think is going to pay for his Health Care Reform? The lie that the insurance companies will cover it is disingenuous. Those costs will be passed onto the consumer. Moreover, the Supreme Court called the language in the law "a tax" so, that in of itself is a lie from his side of the aisle.

    I wrote this more in frustration. I have been venting all day. I return to my beginning, that I hope Obama proves us on the other side wrong. Four years is plenty of time to reach out and fulfill the promise of Hope & Change.

    1. Thanks for writing and being civil even after I rather dismissive of Romney voters.

      I wouldn't word it the way you did, but I'll agree that part of Obama's success is attributable to the his appeal to minority voters. They are increasingly part of the electorate, and in general, the Democratic Party tends to be friendlier to their interests than the GOP, so it's not surprising that they voted for Obama in the numbers that they did.

      I'll vigorously disagree with you about the issue of Obama's bipartisanship, however. What would be sufficient evidence of bipartisanship for you? He had tax cuts in his economic stimulus package, the universal health care law as it was implemented was based very closely on one originally conceived by conservatives and he appointed Republicans as his secretaries of transportation and defense. I do think he's being at least *reasonably* bipartisan. My personal opinion is that if anything, he's being *too* bipartisan, in that he starts bargaining with a position between what he wants and what his opponents want and then allows them to extract further concessions.

      I am interested in why you support Romney though, and I don't want to scare you away from the conversation. When you write," I concede that Romney was VERY vague (this was purposely done)", what do you mean and why do you feel that it was done purposefully? The reasons that spring to mind when someone is being vague is that they're trying to conceal something, either that his plans were inchoate or unpalatable. If you have something you think is appealing, you want it disseminated as widely as possible.